Saturday, August 13, 2011

Pineapple Upside Down Cake With A Side of Cookies

The other day, I got a very nice compliment on my recipe for Gingerbread Peach Upside Down Cake (really my mom's), and it dawned on me that I've never even had the original upside-down cake: pineapple!  I suppose it's no accident.  Pineapple upside-down cake traditionally involves the horrific combination of canned pineapple and maraschino cherries.  I find the combination no more appealing congealing atop a slice of syrup-shellacked cake.

When I saw a recipe for pineapple upside-down cake in Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc cookbook, I had to reassess.  Surely Thomas Keller wouldn't put his stamp of approval on an unworthy dessert!  Mr. Keller's admitted taste for canned pineapple aroused my suspicions, but the recipe called for fresh and I've never met a Keller recipe I didn't like, so I forged on.

The sugar topping of the recipe also intrigued me... instead of sticking to the usual brown-sugar and butter combo, Keller invented a "schmear": a fluffy concoction of whipped butter, brown sugar, rum, vanilla and salt. 

Oddly, the recipe only calls for a fraction of the schmear, and Keller unhelpfully advises that you can save the remaining schmear in your refrigerator for up to two weeks (or frozen for 1 month!).  What am I supposed to do with a big bowl of schmear in my refrigerator? Make five more pineapple upside-down cakes in the next two weeks?  At this point in the recipe I wasn't even entirely sure I liked pineapple upside-down cake so the remaining schmear's fate seem precarious at best.

Of course, the schmear proved to be evilly delicious.  As I stood over the sink, licking the sugary, rum-spiked butter from my fingers, the spoon, and the bowl, I simply couldn't bear to wash it down (the sink, not my throat--let's just say its a good thing I didn't have a glass of milk handy...). Since I'm the only one crazy enough to eat it by the spoonful, I had to find some way to use it in order to save myself from a diabetic coma.  Enter Keller-Schmear Cookies!  The schmear closely resembled cookie dough pre-eggs and flour so I just tossed in a few more ingredients, and viola!  Side of cookies!

Now, I know what you are thinking: I made a batch of cookies so that I wouldn't be dessert-less and disappointed when my first bite of cake confirmed that pineapples taste better on pizza and peaches taste better on upside-down cake.  Not so!  I trust Thomas Keller... even though he likes canned pineapple.

The pineapple upside-down cake proved to be quite good, although I personally prefer gingerbread-peach.  And the Keller Schmear cookies?  Maybe it was a little weird to serve cookies with cake, but I think my cookies were better!  I should change this post Keller-Schmear Cookies with a Side of Cake.  And Thomas Keller should include them in his next cookbook! 


Keller Cookies + Schmear
1 stick unsalted butter, room temp
1 1/2 T. honey
1/2 t. dark rum
1 c. packed light brown sugar
1/4 t. vanilla extract
1 egg
1 c. flour
1 scant 1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. kosher salt

Upside Down Cake
1 pineapple
1 stick unsalted butter, room temp
1 1/3 c. flour
2t. baking soda
1/2 c. plus 2 T sugar
1/2 t. vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 T + 1t milk

Preheat the oven to 350.  To make the schmear and cookies, combine the brown sugar, butter, honey, rum, and vanilla in a medium bowl and beat with a hand mixer until smooth.  Spread 1/3 cup of the schmear onto the bottom of a 9 in. cake pan, sprinkle with kosher salt, and set aside.

Mix 1 egg into the remaining schmear until well-blended.  Add the flour, salt, and baking powder and mix until combined.  Refrigerate the cookie dough while preparing the pineapple.

Hack off ends of the pineapple, cut away the fibrous peel, and slice into rounds or half-rounds.  Remove core from the rounds (or half-rounds) and arrange in the pan on top of the schmear (you won't need all the pineapple... for a scrumptious way to use up the leftover pineapple--besides just eating it--try my recipe for Pineapple A La Cabo).  Go back to making cookies.

Form the chilled cookie-dough into balls (think ping-pong), roll in granulated sugar, and place on a cookie sheet 2 in. apart.  Bake at 350 for 10 min.  Cool while you make the cake.

Sift the flour and baking soda together and set aside.  In a large bowl, combine the butter and sugar.  Beat on medium speed for three minutes until light and fluffy.  Add the vanilla, and beat to combine.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well and scraping down the sides after each addition.  Beat in the milk.  Add the flour in 3 batches, stirring with a spatula until just combined (do not overmix! overmixing = tough cake).

Spread the batter over the pineapple, pop in the oven, and bake 15 min.  Turn the pan 1/2 turn to ensure even baking, and bake another 20 minutes or until a knife inserted into the cake comes out clean. Cool cake for 30 min before inverting onto a plate.

Serve with freshly whipped cream (beat 1/2 c. heavy whipping cream 'till soft peaks form, add 2T granulated sugar and 1/4 t. vanilla, beat gently to combine), and to really dress it up, a glass of Sauternes (a shout-out to the person who inspired me to write my first post in over 4 months!).

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Berry Pavlova

I've been delinquent with my postings in the last four months due to my new diet.  It's called the "I'm too busy to eat let alone cook" diet.  Really, practicing law does wonders for your figure!  Unless you're going for toned... this diet calls for a strict adherence to a no-gym policy, and requires that you sit motionless in a chair for at least 14 hours per day.  You'll be as skinny and floppy as a cooked noodle!

Since I mainly subsist on squished granola bars dredged from the bottom or my purse, or cheese, this simple raspberry pavlova is the most complicated cooking endeavor I've managed in the last four months. 

As I've mentioned before, I'm usually not a huge fan of meringue.  Meringue gets a bad rap in my book as being "healthy" since it mostly consists of egg whites and it's low in fat and calories. *shudder* There is nothing worse than a low-fat dessert.  BUT this meringue is different.  I actually have no idea if this particular dessert is low in calories or fat. I would suspect not given the exorbitant quantity of sugar stuffed into the marshmallowy meringue and the tart raspberry topping, not to mention the thick blanket of heavy whipping cream that crowns the finished creation.  YUM!  As I said, this meringue is different.

 On the other hand, it was named after ballerina Anna Pavlova, presumably because the lightness of the dessert rivaled that of Ms. Pavlova on point (or maybe because ballerinas have to eat meringue instead of cheesecake so they don't get fat?)  Either way, this pavlova is so good that it feeds a lively rivalry between New Zealand and Australia over which country invented it first! (according to good old Wikipedia). 

It's delicious, it's light, and best of all,  it's as easy as pie (or pavlova...) to bake.  So whether you're on a real diet, or the "I'm too busy to eat let alone cook" diet, this is the perfect dessert (thank you to my sister who just pointed out that this sentence previously read, "I'm too busty to eat let alone cook."  Whoops!  If that's the case, you [literally] have bigger problems than I do).  I'm going to have a slice right after I finish my dinner of potato chips... I literally just ate potato chips for dinner.  Ooook I also had a chocolate peanut butter truffle and a glass of flat champagne.


5 large egg whites
1 1/4 t cornstarch
1 1/2 t champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar
pinch of salt
1 1/4 t vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups sugar

2 pkgs raspberries
2 pkgs blackberries
1T lemon juice
1 cup sugar + 2-3T extra for the whipped cream
1c heavy whipping cream

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Medium peaks
Whisk the egg whites on low until foamy, then add the cornstarch, vinegar, and salt and whisk at medium speed until medium peaks form.  Medium peaks = the tips of the whites flop over slightly when you pull the beaters out and look at them.  Gradually add the sugar while continuing to beat at high speed until stiff, glossy peaks form.  Stiff glossy peaks =  the whites are stiff and glossy when you lift the beaters out and look at them.  No brainer.  Whisk in the vanilla extract.

Use a rubber spatula to scoop the egg white mixture onto the parchment.  Shape it into a rough circle as you scoop, and use the spatula to create a shallow well surrounded by a 1-2 in. rim.  Like an egg-white pizza, sort-of...

Stiff glossy peaks
Pop the egg white pizza into the oven and bake for 2 hours - until the outside is firm to the touch and the bottom lifts easily off of the parchment.  The insides will still be fluffy and soft.  Turn off the oven, and let the meringue cool with the oven door ajar for 2 hours (the gradual cooling prevents the meringue from cracking).

While the meringue cools, make the berry topping.

Pour 1pgk raspberries, 1 pkg blackberries, 1c. sugar, and lemon juice into a large saute pan.  Crush the berries with a fork and bring to a full boil over medium-high heat.  Lower the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the berry mixture gets syrupy and gooey. ~ 10 min.  Fold in the remaining 2pkgs berries and refrigerate until cold.

Egg-white pizza
Just before serving, make the freshly whipped cream.  Mmmmmmm.  I love freshly whipped cream!  Freshly whipped cream is to canned whipped cream as artisan cheese is to cheese whiz.  In other words, don't use canned whipped cream unless you want to make your dessert taste like you bought it, expired, from the bakery section of Safeway and then left it in the freezer until it got freezer burn, thawed it, re-froze it and thawed it again, let your cat lick it, and then served it.  After you scraped the mold off of it.  Seriously, don't use canned whipping cream.

Anyways, to make the whipped cream, beat the heavy whipping cream on high speed until soft peaks form.  Gradually whisk in 2-3 T granulated sugar until medium peaks form.  Don't overwhip or you might as well have bought canned whipped cream.  Overwhipped cream is way more disgusting... like old butter than you left out so that it melted, the cat licked it, and then it re-congealed into a lumpy blob.

Hopefully I didn't just ruin your appetite, because now it is time to assemble the pavlova!

Pour the chilled berry mixture onto the center of the meringue, and spread so it reaches the rim.  Top with the freshly whipped cream.  Serve with dark roast coffee.  Slice and eat.